David Hartley and his fellow Merry Gentlemen

David Hartley and his fellow Merry Gentlemen

Christmas lights


Gloomy by teatime? Check. Streets filled with wooden stalls claiming some Germanic origin? Check. Saxophone guy playing carols? Well, let’s just say we won’t need to be guessing how Last Christmas goes come December 25th…

So it’s a merry scene in Manchester. Some would say a time of good cheer, awaft with aroma of pine needles and cinnamon, and the heated scent of money sliding out of the cash machines. But it’s never as simple as that in Manchester, is it? In the city that brought us the industrial revolution, a place with a plain-speaking background of non-conformism and Engels, it would never do to let yourself be carried away by all the seductive wrappings of surface frivolity.

If you are in need of a corrective, therefore, here is a round-up of this year’s best in AltChristmas, guaranteed to give you a glimpse into the dark corners behind the tinsel.


First up, @RudolphDied, a festive Twitter horror story by that master of the short, @FatRoland. It’s an Advent treat without the chocolate, with hourly updates from noon til 8pm. Sign up now, and share with Pestilence and Locust the uneasy feeling that all is not right with Christmas.


Next, if not strictly seasonal, comes The Longest Night, a quintet of curious tales to be read around the fire as the nights draw ever more closely in around your shoulders. With stories by Jenn Ashworth, Alison Moore, Tom Fletcher, Richard Hirst and Emma Jane Unsworth and illustrations by Beth Ward, the launch is on Friday December 13th at the Portico. Buy your copy early though because *whisper* when they’re gone, they’re gone. I’ll be there on the 13th. I’ll let you know how it goes (if I get out alive, of course).

merry gentlemen

And now to those Merry Gentlemen. Last year, David Hartley brought us God Rest Ye, seven Christmas fictions where the trees turn the tables, Santa isn’t necessarily welcome, and the miracle of the nativity brings an unexpected second coming. This collection is still available over on Amazon. Have a read, and tell me what you think of my favourites, the heartbreakingly poignant All Thru’ the House and So Tender and Mild, which just gets better from the moment that:

James exhumed his family members and propped them around the table for the Christmas meal. They didn’t eat much.

He’s followed it up this year, in what I hope will be an ongoing tradition, with a new collection, Merry Gentlemen. Short and snappy as exploding crackers, the seven stories track and subvert the trite, remaking myths and cleansing your palate of the sticky gingerbread of Christmas past, present and future. Just keep looking over your shoulder as you unwrap that first present, mind. You never know what’s hiding behind the Christmas lights…

The Longest Night is touring the North West as we speak. Track them down here.

Father Christmas



Submit a Comment

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *